Every newsroom needs a capitalist

I believe in the free press and free markets. But the Commie Mints are delicious.

I believe in the free press and free markets. But the Commie Mints are delicious.

When Carole Tarrant was named editor of The Roanoke Times in 2007, she created what seemed to some an unusual org chart. There was a traditional managing editor position. But then there was another position no one had ever heard of, because it had never existed before — Senior Editor for New Channels.

And that was me. (Previously, I had been assistant managing editor for content and planning, basically the AME in charge of news.)

This new position was essentially a senior editor (reporting directly to the editor) in charge of new ventures. Or, put another way, I was the newsroom’s designated capitalist (although Carole was a pretty shrewd capitalist, of her own.)

It was Carole’s belief that for newspapers to survive, they needed to find new revenue streams — and better for the newsroom to be in charge of that than anyone else. She also didn’t think that mission fit easily or naturally within the rest of the newsroom structure. Hence, my position.

In the years since, we created a new species of hyperlocal coverage — which, I should point out — has also been profitable. I’ve also been the newsroom’s designated point person for dealing with advertising on various other projects, some one-off ventures, some more permanent, some which never got off the ground because we didn’t deem them profitable.

Carole sometimes joked that she’d turn a Marxist into a capitalist. I was never a communist, of course, but it was a good in-joke on newsroom culture. When she came back from a trip to New York, she brought me this package of “Commie Mints” as a kind of tribute to my work.